How Heavy is Too Heavy?
Have you ever picked up your child’s backpack, only to groan and ask them in surprise, “what are you carrying in there, rocks?” As your child grows older, it seems their backpack gets heavy each year! While backpacks were designed to be utilitarian, they should also be practical; packs should never cause pain, discomfort, or back and muscle problems later in life. Nor should they be used to carry around an entire locker’s worth of books or items in. School backpacks are not meant as a camping bag, they should only carry small loads over short periods of time throughout the course of the day. Granted, this can prove challenging, as children spend more and more time at school. However, health experts say that a backpack should never be more than 10 to 15% of a child’s body weight. Anything heavier than that is too heavy, and can have serious consequences later in life.
Side Effects of Improper Backpack Use
Few are aware that something so simple as a backpack can have lasting repercussions. Dangers are even worse for smaller children and girls, who are more impacted by the heavy loads relative to their smaller body weight. The force of a heavy weight such as a backpack can pull a child backwards, causing them to bend forwards to compensate. Over time, this can cause the spine to compress unnaturally, even causing growth and posture issues. Carrying a heavy bag changes the way children walk, increasing their risk of falling. Some children may develop shoulder, neck, and back pain. Backpacks with tight or sharp straps can dig into the body and cause damage to skin, circulation, and nerves, leading to tingling, numbness, and weakness in the upper limbs.
Heavy or over-sized backpacks can pose additional safety challenges. First, children who carry large bags are typically unaware of how much space they take up. They can often bump into things, or hit people with their bags while moving or turning around. A clonk from a heavy bag, especially on the head, is enough to knock any adult off their feet, let alone a small child! Carrying an over-sized bag also impacts the way a child walks, putting them off balance and increasing the risk of falling. An over-sized bag can also pose a tripping hazard, as bags left in aisles or near walking ways can cause trip-ups and other accidents.
Backpack Safety Tips
Backpacks come in sizes, colors, styles, and shapes, allowing children of all ages to express themselves and their own sense of style. Today, there are more backpacks on the market than ever, and if you cannot find the ideal bag in stores, don’t hesitate to venture online, where you will often find more choices at lesser prices. But what should you look for when you buy that trendy new bag? Here’s what to look for:
-Double straps. Always select a backpack with two straps, not one. Though a sidestep or messenger bag may look cool, it puts all the pressure on one shoulder, and can cause back, neck, and shoulder pain. A double-strapped backpack evenly distributes the weight.
-Thick shoulder pads. If they’re going to be carrying it around all day, it may as well be comfy. Opt for a backpack with thick pads all over. Ideally, the entire underside of the backpack should be padded, but if not, be sure to at least secure padded shoulder straps. These padded straps help prevent chaffing and discomfort, and also stops the backpack from digging into your child’s shoulders.
-Lots of pockets. To help ease the weight on your child’s shoulders, you should distribute the weight of the insides of the backpack evenly. Pack for maximum comfort; heavier items should be placed towards the back of the bag, with lighter items up front. Having enough pockets will allow you to easily distribute weight while ensuring your child has everything they need to get through the day.
-Consider wheels. They may not be old enough to drive yet, but a backpack with wheels could be in their cars. Wheeled bags ease the burden of weight, so they’re great for your child’s spinal health. However, wheeled bags could be somewhat cumbersome in schools with lots of stairs, or in adverse weather. They are also not the “coolest” of bags these days. Also, some schools do not allow wheeled bags. Check with your child’s school before purchasing.